What a strange title. The Republican presidential candidate and one of the leading, if not the leading, cognitive psychologists who also is a Nobel Prize Winner. What could they possibly have to do with each other? The answer is that Daniel Kahneman’s Two Process Theory can explain Donald Trump’s appeal. Kahneman’s Two Process Theory was summarized in his best selling book, “Thinking Fast and Slow.” Kahneman posits that we have two basic processing systems. System 1 is fast and is called intuition. System 1 needs to be fast so we can process language and make the fast decisions we need to make everyday. System 1 is also the seat of our emotions. System 2 is called reasoning and corresponds loosely to what we mean by thinking.
As for Donald Trump’s appeal to bigots it is natural and resounds soundly to their beliefs. But what about his appeal to people who are not bigots, but are dissatisfied with the ways things are and want change? He promises change, and they respond. The problem is that they respond by not invoking System 2 processes. System 2 is supposed to monitor System 1 for processing errors. Basically System 2 is supposed to respond to erroneous System 1 Processes and start thinking.
Clinton supporters have difficulty understanding how apparently intelligent people can support Trump. He says that he will solve their problems. But if System 2 processes are invoked they should realize that his proposals will not benefit them. For example, his tax proposals benefit primary people like himself, not the middle or lower classes. Most economists say that his proposals are unrealistic and would greatly increase the debt. There should be no fear of bankruptcy, however, as Trump claims to be an expert on bankruptcy, and here is where his true genius lies. Of course, his genius for exploiting the prejudices and biases of the general population should not be underestimated.
The problems with building walls and mass deportations have been raised as being unfeasible. Similarly experts argue that his trade policies would hurt the economy. Of course, Trump supporters dislike the “elite” and “experts” so they do not listen to them. That is understandable as these “experts” along with the “elite” think, something that Trump supporters are not wont to do.
However, there is a dangerous Trump characteristic that should be detectable by even System 1 processes. That is his emotional instability. He seems to be unable to control his emotions and strikes out very quickly at anyone who offends him.
Unfortunately, the most important characteristic for a President is emotional stability followed by an understanding of international affairs and the military.
HM has previously stated that Trump is an existential risk to the United States. This is based on both his ignorance and contempt of the Constitution of the United States and government. HM thinks that his election would place democracy at risk. HM urges readers to read “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis. It is about a legitimately elected presidential candidate who changes the United States into a fascist dictatorship. The president did not campaign on a platform of changing the country to a fascist dictatorship. However, people who exercised their System 2 processing could realize that this was a genuine risk.
HM thinks that Trump is an existential risk to the world, because giving him control of nuclear weapons risks a worldwide nuclear holocaust.
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